Chris Fleming is a very talented Virginia angler. There were a number of Virginia bass fisheries we could have talked to him about. But today we talk about the little known Flannagan Reservoir. Chris has had a lot of success catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir. He discusses with us his approach to bass fishing this lake.
You did very well catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir in Virginia this year. How was your overall fishing on Flannagan?
I would say this has been a successful year fishing overall. We started out in team tournaments winning or placing the first few we fished. Then I slowed down some to start fishing the FLW BFL series. It picked back up in the summer and since then we were able to land several good fish and finishes.
Flannagan Reservoir is a place I have seen some success for several years. My dad taught me how to fish when I was very young, mostly in rivers. Then he bought a bass boat so we started fishing some tournaments there.
For many years I was considered a “good net man” for him but always tried to pay attention to what was going on or what I was doing wrong. We won a couple rodeos mostly catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir by throwing Texas rigged worms. Since then it has been a constant effort to try and learn new places and techniques that may produce on this type of lake. I have been fishing it since I was maybe 8 years old and can honestly say that today I am still learning new things about catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir.
How would you describe Flannagan Reservoir as a bass fishery?
I personally think it’s a good lake for bass fishing. I guess compared to others it would be considered a tough lake when it comes to size and numbers. The lake is gin clear with 20 feet visibility for most of the year. I really like it but I have fished it for more than 15 years which makes it somewhat easier.
It is not actually known as a fishing lake by most but the locals that do fish really enjoy having it in the area. I think I like it so much because it has all the options for me to perfect my bass fishing skills. You can fish for either largemouth or smallmouth, you can run up shallow in the Cranesnest River or the Pound River. You can fish deep down near the dam, and it has grass, wood, and rocks.
Flannagan has both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. What do you consider the primary species in the lake?
I would have to say largemouth is the primary species in the lake. Most of the big fish caught are largemouth. There are big smallies in the lake but they seem harder to come by. The fish are healthy, and there are plenty of them.
As far as big fish, they are harder to come by on a regular basis. Most people shoot for one to two 4 to 5 pound fish in a tournament and adding 3 to 4 keepers with it for a good bag.
Overall for either species I would say average is slightly smaller than some lakes but it is also a high pressure, gin clear, deep lake with boats fishing a lot of the same areas due to the lake being a smaller body of water.
When fishing a tournament on Flannagan, what do you consider a 5 fish limit that is good enough to finish well?
Generally 13 pounds will have you in the money with a chance to win. Sometimes someone will bust a big bag and other times it’s not that high. A normal tournament turnout is somewhere around 15 boats and pays 3 spots so 13 pounds will have you in the mix.
The biggest bag I have been a part of on this lake was 17.73 lbs. The bag included a 6 1/4 largemouth and a 5 and a 1/2 largemouth both caught by my partner. It was prespawn fishing, rainy day and the big ones were up eating. We caught 11 or 12 fish that day and culled up a few times. With roughly 30 minutes left in the tournament I lost a big largemouth that was probably around 6 pounds. To the best of my knowledge, that fish would have most likely pushed us up high enough in weight to have recorded the largest single day 5 fish limit on the lake.
When you are targeting largemouth bass on Flannagan, what are your 3 favorite methods and baits?
My favorite all around bait for catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir is a jig. Not any specific jig, I usually change style and trailer type depending on the time of year. Whether I am dragging it on a point or targeting brush I feel confident that it will bring me some bites.
I have caught fish on a jig in every month of the year on this lake except January. Just trust in throwing it and it will get bites. Next would have to be a Texas rigged worm. From May to October a worm will catch fish. Just be sure to throw it around grass or wood.
Last but not least for catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir would have to be a topwater bait. During the daytime a popper or spook will do the trick and at night a buzzbait will catch big fish. This is one situation where the clear water helps. Target shoreline cover to draw the fish out and they will track it from a long distance.
When you are targeting smallmouth on Flannagan, what are your 3 favorite methods and baits for smallmouth?
In the spring and fall, I really like throwing a jerkbait for smallmouth. Again, this is a situation where the clear water helps the fish find the bait from a long distance. Smallmouth are known as sight feeders so this goes right along with many proven theories. This is a subtle bait that looks and acts like a shad.
I will have to add a jig to this list as well. Usually for smallmouth bass, it’s a smaller type of jig with a crawfish trailer. Throw it around rocks as a general rule for smallmouth loving rocks and normally to find a crawfish you would turn over rocks on the side of a lake or river.
A fun time of year to really crush smallmouth is during their spawn. Once you find them any small soft plastic bait will get the job done. I personally prefer a small green worm or craw. Fish it slow and on the bottom, the bite is light and more often than not your line will be moving by the time you set the hook.
How much pressure does Flannagan Reservoir get?
I would say it is a pressured lake simply because of the size of lake it is compared to the number of boats that fish it. There are boats on the lake all times of the year and with the way it lays it pretty much limits anglers to bank beating.
There are usually 3 small tournaments per week and sometimes a club will fish it with more boats than normal. It is really the only lake the people in the area have to go to so it gets all the jet skis and boats pulling tubes or skis.
I try to find small changes in the bank or a difference in the way current swings up against something. I have really worked hard the past two years with electronics trying to find something different than most people look for out off the beaten path. It is a man made lake so there are many old roadbeds that are still defined under the water.
I think pairing that with trying to stay up to date on new baits and techniques to try to keep myself ahead of what other people are doing, and the fish are accustomed to seeing, is what has really worked for me and helped me have a successful year.
What is your favorite time of year for catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir?
Spring is by far my favorite time of year for catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir! That’s the time of year that I think you have the best chance to catch a big fish or bag. I have caught and know of many big fish that have been caught in the springtime on this lake. Another good option is to fish at night in the spring and catch them really well. The fish move up at night and feed on minnows early in the year, so it’s easier to pick them off.
I know you have fished with your son on this lake. How is this lake for fishing with kids?
I actually enjoy this lake more than other lakes to fish with my son because of the safety aspect. He is 7 years old so I am still watching him pretty closely while on the boat. The lake doesn’t have a ton of boat traffic and the wind is rarely bad so it makes it a great lake for teaching kids to fish. There are a ton of blue gill and small bass that are easy to catch which is fun for kids. Every now and then they get to catch a good one.
Overall, what are 5 pieces of advice you have for catching bass on Flannagan Reservoir?
#1 As I said earlier it is a clear lake so plan for lighter line and more subtle techniques than normal.
#2 It is a mountain lake,so if there is a heavy rain be careful when running the rivers for floating logs or trash.
#3 If the water gets dirty or it starts to rain while you are on the water, instantly pick up a spinnerbait. For some reason they will eat like crazy before a storm or if the water is dirty.
#4 Don’t expect to show up at this lake and catch a ton of fish. Certain times of the year that is a possibility, but other times its just not going to happen. They don’t hold big tournaments here but I would really like to see how some pro’s would approach it and the kind of weights they would bring out.
#5 If you have a chance to stay for a couple of days make sure to get out and fish at least once at night. These fish seem to really show up and feed at night and usually the lake isn’t very crowded. That is also probably the best opportunity at catching one of the lake’s bigger fish.
Who are your current sponsors?
I am on board with Woo! Tungsten. I became a part of this company when it was first getting started at the front of the 2017 season. They have great tungsten weights but in my eyes the finish they have on their tungsten is the best in the business. They also have drop shot weights, nail weights, and recently added punching weights just to name a few items. Woo! also has a full apparel line that is growing by the day. I am excited to be a part of a company growing this rapidly and on a national scene with elite anglers.
I am also with Solar Bat Sunglasses. I teamed up with them in the 2016 season. They have great sunglasses and many options of lenses and frames to choose from. Both owners of these companies are easy to get ahold of and talk to and have great customer service! Both of these positions for me are promotional staff positions.
Hopefully in the near future I can work with some local businesses, both fishing related and not directly fishing related, to help promote them and the area I live in as great outdoor opportunities for visitors from all over! I will be helping again with a youth fishing day at the Flannagan Dam Spillway. I am very excited to be able to again work with our youth and talk with them about fishing!
Thank you Chris. Hope you have great success in 2018. Chris can be followed on Instagram @chris__fleming.
Read about Another Virginia Fishing Spot: Fishing Chickahominy Lake with Joey Cooke